Sixteen and nervous, I pretended to walk with purpose toward the piano. On the right and left of me, there are people who have various expressions on their faces: boredom, anticipation, and happiness. Most are parents who are eagerly awaiting their child to play their particular piece. Before I stood up, I looked to the side and remember my mom, mouthing, “You will do great. Good luck!”
Doubt filled my head. Although I practiced my piece a thousand times, I wasn’t convinced that I could offer a seamless performance. Almost a 100 people filled the aisle, my stomach grumbled and the imaginary metronome tick-tocked in my head. My piano teacher insisted that we memorize our pieces. Terrified, I took my place at the piano bench. Foot on pedal, hands cold as ice, I strike the first note of my very first recital piece, Columbine’s Lament.
At the beginning of the piece, my tempo is perfect and fingers separate at the right moment. No hesitation, but a gradual succession of the notes that follow the pattern that I memorized. Midway through the piece, it happens. I forget. The change in the piece shifts from melody to random notes that are divorced from one another. I pause. My piano teacher, with her bee-hive bun, bronze eye shadow, and manicured nails stared at me. In her head, I know she was thinking, “You have ruined my recital.” With misguided conviction, I funnel through my performance. The notes aren’t making sense. Ending my embarassment, I release the foot off the pedal and stand. The crowd’s obligatory clapping does very little to comfort me. I take a seat with my parents and endure the next hour of accomplished pianists play compositions that are complicated in its arrangement.
Many years later, I carry this performance with me, like an internal badge. There was something I recognized years later from that recital day. The swift change between the notes, from the primary keys to the sharps and flats, indicated a change. Sometimes it resonated loudly, other times quiet, depending on the strength of how I maneuvered my hands on the keys. My confidence, fear, hesitation, failure, resolve all peeked during this performance. The change from one emotion to the other happened, even when I didn’t always fully realize what was happening. The entire bandwith of life, its changes, and how we react can be encompassed within one piano piece.
The change is sometimes clear, the sharps pierce a little more, the flats bellow, at times, louder. Just like life.
This piece is part of Momalom’s Five for Five Series. This is my response to the word, change.
Image by Milianodehorcana
Excellent piece, Rudri. I can often detect change by my breathing (or lack there of!). Sometimes when we key in we can change the outcome as we center ourselves and other times fear has taken over.
I want to yank on that teacher’s bun and mess it all up on your behalf, Rudri. But I do love the metaphor of music for life, the ascending and descending, the quiet and the loud, the lingering and the abrupt. There are indeed so many beautiful, apt parallels.
Awww, I felt for you. But I like how you reasoned your way through it and made it into something meaningful.
I’m visiting you from SITS! What a talented writer you are!
Welcome April! I appreciate the encouragement. Glad you visited.
The fact that you even braved a recital…that’s really something. It probably would’ve happened to me too.
But the metaphor here? Absolutely pitch perfect 🙂
p.s. So glad to be in Five for Five with you; I remember discovering your blog through Five for Ten. Can you believe it has been almost two years? Where does the time go?
Justine: I do remember crossing paths with you the first time and how there were so many similarities between our daughters. So glad that we still visit each other. Proud to call you my friend.
Isn’t it alarming how we can relive moments like these? I love the way you use the music in your writing. And I love that through a difficult situation you shared with us a beautiful scene, full of emotion and leaving me hoping you’ll get another chance at that piano keyboard! So glad you’re joining in!
Oh, yes. I’m there with you at the keyboard. And remembering my own time, falling on my face (figuratively) in public in a performance. I still dream about that anxiety.
It is an anxiety that lingers. I was surprised that as I wrote this some of those same feelings rushed back. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
Yes, just like life. This is gorgeous, Rudri.
Thanks Aidan. Always a pleasure seeing your words in my space. Ivy League Insecurities offered me the original inspiration for my blog. And I will be forever grateful to you for that gift. Thanks. xoxo
The sharps and flats — wonderful metaphor, Rudri. Your piece reminds me of something else, too. Not only are the sharps and flats always there, but we learn so much from them. How would we ever gather experience, knowledge, wisdom without first encountering those highs and lows?
And it makes me wonder, how can we go from that perfectly executed piece to completely broken down – all in a matter of a few stanzas. Yes, just like life.
Shivers going through my spine as I recall my own first recital. Yikes! This piece resonates with me on so many levels.
Welcome! I am glad my words spoke to you. Hope your recital was a little more successful than mine. Thanks for reading and commenting.
I pictured myself butchering my own recital. with all those eyes watching. great piece.
Thanks so much. I am glad my words resonated with you.
Oh, how I get this! I once had to play a piece in less then ideal circumstances. I popped my head and violin out a window and was supposed to play a sweet romantic tune. I played the first stanza right, but somehow switched keys into the next. I muddled through, but I was mortified.
The flats and sharps of life — a brilliant metaphor and this piece is absolutely beautiful.
Thanks Belinda. Always appreciate your words in my space.
How great to take what must have been really traumatic at the time and make something so beautiful out of it! Wonderful writing, so so true. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Cindy. I am glad the words in this post spoke to you. Appreciate your generous comment.
This is beautiful. I love the comparison of the notes to emotions of life.
Thanks so much. I am glad my post resonated with you.
Wonderful! I always marvel at how key changes in certain songs can provoke such a strong response in me. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks Andrea. Nice seeing your words in my space again. I love how Five for Five brings some old friends back.
What a powerful metaphor….really enjoyed this piece.
Thanks so much. Glad you appreciated the words in this post.
I’ve had many recitals that went just like that.